While no two dogs are exactly alike, our pets do have genetic characteristics that contribute to their behavior and their predisposition for certain health concerns. This is just one reason it’s important for future dog owners to spend time researching the best breed for their family before adopting a new best friend.
For many dog owners, knowing your dog's breed is not an issue. Responsible breeders should provide new owners with health and pedigree papers, and there are certain breeds more common at animal shelters and rescues. But if you’re considering adopting or have a mixed-breed dog, it can be a challenge identifying the various breeds that make up your dog.
Why Is It Important to Know a Mixed-breed Dog's Ancestry?
An estimated half of all dogs are mixed-breed, and each of these breeds is characterized by unique behavioral traits. When training or trying to solve behavior problems, knowing what breed characteristics influence your best friend's behavior can help you and your trainer leverage those characteristics to produce a more pleasant household environment.
Additionally, when taking your dog to the vet, informing the doctor of your dog’s breed makeup will help them tailor the correct diet, exercise and preventive medicine regimen. All of this leads to a more informed owner — and a healthier and happier dog.
How to Determine Your Mixed-breed Dog’s Lineage
Here are a few ways to help solve the mystery of your mixed-breed dog’s ancestry.
Research Your Dog’s Physical Characteristics
The way a mixed-breed dog or puppy looks can be a big indicator of their lineage. In fact, shelter staff often make educated guesses about a mixed-breed dog’s makeup.
To start, make a list of your dog’s physical traits:
Body: How big is your dog? Are they short or tall? Thick and muscular or slender and long?
Muzzle: Does your dog have a short, average or long face?
Tail: Is their tail docked or bobbed? Long, short, curly, pointy?
Ears: Does your pup have floppy or erect ears? Long or short?
Coat: What color or pattern is your dog’s coat? Is their hair or fur soft or wiry? Long, medium or short?
Once you have a list of your dog’s characteristics, you can begin researching and connecting the dots between your dog’s traits and common breed attributes.
Explore Breed Group Behavior
Many dog breeds were originally bred for specific tasks, which can affect how certain breeds behave — and can even be helpful in identifying your mixed-breed dog’s lineage.
Note any behaviors your pup frequently displays. Does your canine best friend chew the furniture, love retrieving toys, hide their food or point at hidden birds or rabbits? Each of these traits is identified with certain breeds
Here are just a few behaviors that can indicate breed group:
Herding the family cat. If your dog tends to circle or stare, nip or bark at other pets or children, they may belong to the herding group. Originally bred to herd sheep and cattle, some breeds in this group include collies, Pembroke Welsh corgis and German shepherds.
Chase small (or large) animals. If your canine companion has a strong prey drive, they might have lineage from a breed in the hound group. Greyhounds, Ibizan hounds, beagles and basset hounds are a few of the breeds in this group of dogs originally bred for hunting.
Digging in the yard. Dogs in the terrier group were bred to hunt vermin, leaving them with a penchant for digging and burrowing. If your dog exhibits this behavior, they may have breeds such as Russell terrier, Boston terrier or Scottish terrier in their background.
Order a Dog DNA Test
It can be difficult to know the various breeds that make up your dog based on their behavior or the "eye test" alone.
To determine a mixed-breed dog's ancestry, perform a safe Wisdom Panel™ Dog DNA Test. With the simple swipe of a cheek swab, the DNA sample can determine the ancestry of a mixed-breed dog by testing for more than 170 breeds. Within three weeks, dog owners are emailed an official ancestry report that reveals the dog's genetic background.
As your dog ages, you’ll likely notice changes in your best pal’s energy levels, routine and even muzzle. Older pets may require adjustments to help them get around, exercise and live their best life as a senior. One important aspect of caring for a dog entering their golden years is diet.
When it comes to diet, every dog has unique, individual needs, regardless of age. So, there's no one easy answer to the question of soft food versus hard food. Both types of food can provide your dog with the nutrition they need — as long as you feed your dog a high-quality dog food that’s nutritionally balanced and complete.
Signs Your Senior Dog May Benefit from Wet Food
If your dog has very specific health concerns, such as aging joints or weight issues, consult with your vet for more information about what type of food best addresses your dog's needs. That being said, there are a few reasons why you may consider switching your senior dog to soft food.
As your dog gets older, their teeth may become more sensitive, which can make chewing kibble more difficult and even uncomfortable. Switching to a soft food can help to alleviate your pet’s oral discomfort when eating.
However, if your dog is experiencing serious pain at mealtime from a condition like tooth decay or gingivitis, switching to soft food won't remedy the problem. Make sure you talk to your vet about oral care and dental treatment.
Digestion begins in the mouth with saliva, so if your dog has a tendency to scarf down meals, they may not be adequately chewing the food or adding enough saliva to it. Soft food can aid with digestion because it's more easily chewed.
It’s no surprise that wet food has a higher moisture content when compared to dry kibble. If your senior pup is prone to urinary-tract issues or simply needs a little help staying hydrated, canned dog food may be a good choice.
Aging dogs tend to have a slower metabolic rate compared to their younger years, which puts them at a higher risk of becoming overweight or obese. Many nutritionally balanced wet dog foods offer high protein content with fewer carbs than dry food, which can benefit older dogs with slower metabolism. Always talk to your vet if you have concerns about your pup’s weight.
While wet food may be less than appetizing to humans, the opposite is true for dogs! If your aging best friend has started turning their snout up to dry food, wet food tends to be more appealing to picky eaters. Mixing wet food and kibble offers your pup a variety of flavors and textures; try adding wet food as a topper on dry food for a real treat!
Whether you choose dry food, soft food or a mix of both, ask your vet before making any transition. And when it's time to switch your dog's food, remember to do it slowly — even if it's the same brand and flavor — to help prevent stomach upset and allow your dog time to adjust.